Global and hemispheric series of surface temperature anomalies are examined in an attempt to isolate any specific features of the structure of the series that might contribute to the global warming of about 0.5°C which has been observed over the past 100 years. It is found that there are no significant differences between the means of the positive and negative values of the changes in temperature from one year to the next; neither do the relative frequencies of the positive and negative values differ from the frequencies that would be expected by chance with a probability near 0.5. If the interannual changes are regarded as changes of unit magnitude and plotted in a Cartesian frame of reference with time measured along the x axis and yearly temperature differences along the y axis, the resulting path closely resembles the kind of random walk that occurs during a coin-tossing game.

We hypothesize that the global and hemispheric temperature series are the result of a Markov process. The climate system is subjected to various forms of random impulses. It is argued that the system fails to return to its former state after reacting to an impulse but tends to adjust to a new state of equilibrium as prescribed by the shock. This happens because a net positive feedback accompanies each shock and slightly alters the environmental state.

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